This blog would have been censored if I were in China due to the strict media censorship. Therefore, enjoy my thoughts as a middle-class daughter, as well as the first college educated in the family, and a recent Journalism graduate from an American university.
Two years ago, my grandfather passed away. He was submitted into the hospital after diagnosed the terminal stage in esophageal cancer. He shared the room with two other patients. Initially, he could still walk. Then it became more painful for him to swallow food, and he lost the energy to get off bed.
After final exams, I immediately flew home. I arrived at late night. The next morning, I rushed to the hospital. My grandma was feeding him breakfast. He smiled at me as I approached him and called him, “Ah-Gong… (Grandpa in Cantonese)”
That was the last smile he gave me. One and the last one. I watched him almost every day, getting weaker and weaker, becoming skinnier and skinner. At last, he couldn’t even talk, or have strength to hold a pen to tell us his thoughts in words. He had a strong will of returning home. We scheduled an ambulance to get him home. It was a windy and chilly day.
Before midnight came, my mom’s phone rang as my parents and I were about to go to bed.
“He’s gone,” my mom spoke in calmness.
He was fine when we visited him at home after dinner around 7. He was breathing. Before I left, I patted his hand and wished he could open his eyes and smile at me one more time. I stared at him for a few seconds.
He died in peace, and it was the only way for him to relieve from all the pain he suffered.
As I was reading How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid, all these memories flocked into my mind. Besides a painful loss, it’s also sad to recall all the unnecessary details, as a granddaughter and the daughter of hardworking middle-class parents.
My parents are friends with a higher-ranking manager in the hospital. It was his help that we were able to submit my grandfather as soon as he was diagnosed and needed immediate medical assistance. The hospital was full, very full. It was very difficult to find a bed for an old terminal-stage cancer patient. I assumed they already predicted that he only had maximum two months and were unable to make his stay more profitable.
During the almost two-month submission, we refused chemotherapy and any additional medical assistance, such as more pills, or even surgery. He was too old and sick to suffer unnecessary pain. Therefore, we turn down their offers. My mom was once told by the main doctor that the rejection was making it difficult for the hospital because, by taking the basic-need medicines and IVs, my grandfather would not get any better and the health condition would go downhill fairly quickly. And we might expect a quicker good-bye. Therefore, they wanted the bed for other awaiting patients.
In other words, they were saying that he would die very soon, and we might as well bring him home. They were trying to kick him out… My mom and I were totally speechless. We had no choice but turned to the manager friend for help. He made some phone calls and we were able to stay however long he could. Later, he also helped us schedule the ambulance to take him home, given that he couldn’t walk or stand. But he was happy to return home.
Side Note: When no beds are available and where patients need immediate medical assistance, hospitals sometimes may set up bed in the hallway in order to provide help. You may argue it’s bad. But it may be the best thing the hospital could do to help.
Think about if we didn’t have this manager friend to help us. We may have been kicked out. We would have to part ways with my grandfather few weeks early. It wasn’t time for him to go yet. He wanted to go home.
In addition, if it weren’t the manager, it’d be very difficult for him to travel home given his critically weak condition. The request of an ambulance to help him travel home would take much longer to process. In this situation that my grandfather was so sick, they might not want the liability for anything happen during the ride. For example, if he fell, or if he felt uneasy, etc. It was the passive attitude that made me sick and disgusted of their ethics.
In the book, the mother was diagnosed cancer. Without much further treatment, she eventually passed away after the cancer metastasized to bones and her lung.
Among the rising middle-class in China, many have doubts towards hospital, medicines and doctor ethics. When you Google recent news about medicines, vaccines, doctors malpractices and social security system, you find so many ridiculous and sad news.
Your mother is quiet throughout, as she tends to be in her interactions with medical professionals. They are unusual in their capacity to cause this behavior in her. Their power to kill in the future by uttering mysterious words today ribs her if her confidence and she, a customarily confident woman, resents this. She longs to resist them but has no idea how to do so. (P.70)
When the rising middle class men, women and children are fallen ill, they can only turn to doctors whom they don’t even trust. It is because they don’t have other options. They don’t have the extra funds for private or better doctors. You are handing your life over to whom you don’t and can’t trust. Great. Just wait and see how that would turn out. It’s very sad to see this happening.
Therefore, when I read “she longs to resist them but has no idea how to do so,” I couldn’t stop myself from sighing. This sentence alone reminds me of my mother. She never really had good experience with hospitals. Well, who does. Like many, she hates pain and needles. Her dislike of hospitals grew much more after her father passing away two years ago and her father-in-law died of leukemia in 2001.
From time to time, she had minor issues like coughing or headache. She stayed home, kept herself hydrated and took non-prescription medication. Generally, she didn’t even go for an overall physical health exam, ever. At times, she feels a little lump by her left ear.
“It doesn’t hurt at all. There shouldn’t be anything. It’s not a big deal,” she would say it as she was feeling the lump with her hand, unsure of what that lump truly is. It really worries me. But I can’t even persuade her because I’ve seen both my grandfathers as victims under the system.
The perception of doctors is that they give you healthy advises and will try to eliminate you from pain. From the past decade, it seemingly fails to match this perception. The recent vaccine crisis worries many parents. Officials denied to relate deaths of 17 toddlers and babies to the vaccine.
An epidemiological analysis showed the 17 deaths were due to various “unidentical” problems, including severe pneumonia, kidney failure and suffocation, which were similar to the causes of deaths of children under five monitored by a national reporting network, they said in the statement.
Doctors shall alert parents before vaccines that their children are not suitable for vaccines, or suggest an overall physical exam before prescribing the vaccine, rather than blaming on “unidentical” problems those innocent babies have.
In all developing countries, health is always a big concern. More people required assistance due to a change in lifestyles due to economic development. However, the federal and the system are unable to provide the help. It’s a long process that the authority shall secure people get the help they need, rather than hastily trying to get done and proceed to the next step.
It’s a like a building, if there’s no firm base, it will collapse. Humans are like this. So is society. So is a nation. So is everything.